Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Raid on Florence

Few towns in Missouri escaped the Civil War untouched by at least one attack from either Confederates or Federals at some time during the war. Many were virtually wiped off the face of the map, including the small village of Florence in Morgan County. On Thursday morning, July 9, 1863, a gang of bushwhackers galloped into the town and took possession of the place by flourishing their firearms and shouting orders. The guerrillas began plundering the general store of of E. F. W. Smith and stealing and drinking whiskey from the grocery/saloon of S. S. Burns on the opposite corner of the crossroads village. Six men, constituting most of the adult males in the village, were lined up in the street near Smith's store. Led by a man whose name was also Smith, the bushwhackers compelled the captives to say whether or not they would take the oath of allegiance to the Union. Only two had the guts to admit they would, but the reticence of the others apparently did not save them from the wrath of the gang, because the desperadoes ended up shooting four of the men in cold-blood, at least two of whom died either immediately or shortly afterwards. According to a report that appeared in the Jefferson City Missouri State Times almost a month later, only the screams and entreaties of the local women prevented further bloodshed. Laden with plunder, the guerrillas mounted up and rode away, but three of them soon came back and announced their intention to burn the town. The clerk of the grocery was forced to pay ten dollars before he was allowed to retrieve the store's books, and then the desperate trio set fire to both the grocery and the general store. The three men also set fire to one residence, and they demanded and received money from some of the other citizens in order that their houses might be spared. Announcing that anybody who tried to put out the fires would be shot, the three men then rode away. Among the guerrillas recognized by the townspeople were Robert Wilson, Thomas Jobe, Jack Smith, Matthew Smith, and Young Harrison.
A report in the immediate wake of the raid differed in a few respects from the more thorough report that was issued a month later. The initial report said four men were killed, while the later report confirmed only two deaths, and the earlier report said that four or five houses were consumed by fire. Both reports agreed that the leader of the band was named Smith, but neither said whether he was Jack Smith or Matthew Smith. The first report also suggested that the raiders hailed from south of the Osage River in the Buffalo neighborhood of Dallas County, but this is questionable, since at least a couple of the guerrillas (i.e. Thomas Jobe) were living in Cole County at the time of the 1860 census.            


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